Can My Tree Be Saved?

Can my tree be saved or Is my tree dying?

  At least once a day a client will ask us, “How can I save my tree?” or “Is my tree dying?”.  Many times these question come too late but other times it is just in the nick of time. A tree or plant may have brown spots on its leaves, yellowing leaves or leaves which are wilting or curling.  The canopy could be defoliating (dropping leaves), dropping fruit or the canopy could be turning completely brown.  There could be conks, fruiting bodies or mycelium (fungi) growing on tree or plant tissue. Just because you have seen some of these things doesn’t mean the tree is dead or even dying. It could mean your tree is sick or has a problem. However, as long as there is live tissue your tree is still alive. This means there still might be a chance.

What is the difference between a sign and a symptom in trees

  Usually a tree, muck like a human, will have symptoms and or signs of a disease.  Before we talk about signs and symptoms let’s make sure we know the difference between the two words. When trees or plants show outward visible effects of a disease this is a symptom. For example, symptoms of a disease could include wilting.  This could be a response to a fungal pathogen which is actively colonizing the tree tissue.  You can’t see the disease or pathogen itself but rather the effect of the disease on the tree. 

  Signs are actual physical evidence of the pathogen itself.  For example, a fruiting body such as Ganoderma sp. is a sign. This is because it is the disease or the build up of the fungus Ganoderma sp itself.  Many signs of disease are hard to see as organisms that cause tree and plant diseases are microscopic

Don’t wait to see more symptoms or signs

  If trees could talk, they could tell us about other symptoms they may be experiencing like humans.  Since they cannot speak we must look for visible symptoms and the signs.  Tree owners often call us when they see outward symptoms or a sign of something and the problem has actually been occurring for a long time.  Luckily for humans we can communicate when we have symptoms.  Generally if we communicate symptoms early we have a better chance at fixing the problem.  Waiting until there are obvious physical signs or symptoms to communicate a problem could be the difference between life or death.  It is for this reason one must pay attention to what is normal for their body and what is not. 

If a tree owner would like to have the best possible results for their trees, he or she should pay attention to their trees to be able to observe what is normal and what is not.

How to apply signs and symptoms to tree health

  Now let’s apply this to trees.  How do we catch symptoms or early signs before it becomes a much more obvious sign?  Usually the more obvious the sign the worse it is.  The best course of action is to figure out what is normal and what is not.  Often this can be more easily said than done with trees and plants.   Mostly this is because your average human is not aware of what a given tree or plant is supposed to look like and has very little familiarity with how a tree or plant functions.  Conversely, your average human is quite familiar with what is normal for a human and has a decent idea of how a body is supposed to function and look under normal circumstances.

Usually signs can be sampled by a pathology laboratory and identified. Some labs even offer suggestions on products which may help to treat the disease. Symptoms are generally requiring you to do more investigation to find the correct reason for the decline of the plant. Symptoms are not able to be identified by a pathology lab like signs are.

Observe your trees

  Here are some ways to help familiarize yourself with your tree or plant.  First do some research and look at photos online.  Study a bit about the anatomy (construction of the plant and its parts) as well as the physiological (functions) characteristics of your tree or plant. Research your tree or plant and find out more about it. What time of year does it usually grow new leaves? When is it supposed to grow new seeds? What time of year does it normally drop its leaves and much more? (To learn more ways to inspect your trees click here.) (Here’s a good site to help familiarize yourself with your tree.)

  After some studying, it doesn’t have to be a super in-depth study, start observing your plant or tree. Pay attention to leaf density, leaf color, yearly growth, flower growth, seed production or growth, fruit growth, pruning wound repair and other yearly or seasonal changes.  Observe other specimens of the same species around your area and notice if they look the same as yours.  Observe younger and older plants or trees of the same species as well to see the differences.  Get an idea of what is normal for the species.  Early signs of problems or subtle signs may include leaf discoloration, leaf yellowing, brown spots on leaves, less yearly growth etc.  Your ability to notice the differences and similarities of your species of tree is the best way to increase or improve your ability to spot problems with your tree or plant early on.

Stop the amplification of signs and symptoms

  Once you have spotted a change or a deviation from normal it is best to start ruling out the underlying problems..  This can be tricky, however, there are many tests that can be done on trees and plants to help narrow down possible causes or contributing factors.  Unfortunately, in arboriculture, much like in medicine, arborist are often not able to find the cause and so take a course of action to include multiple different possible treatments. Such an application would target a wide range of possible contributing factors thereby reducing or slowing the amplification or multiplication of signs and symptoms.  Stopping or slowing the amplification or multiplication of signs and symptoms is critical in the recovery of a tree.  This also applies to humans.

  Early identification of a potential problem is likely the best way you can handle health problems with all living things.  The next step is to do something about it.  Just because you observed a potential problem doesn’t get the ball rolling on handling the problem. 

What do I do now

  If there is still green foliage or green tissue just under the bark surface. (click here to see how to check). You must quickly get an arborist. It is our opinion to first get personal referrals from neighbor’s or people in the community you trust if possible.  In addition to or in conjunction with the above, you can also browse the internet for companies that can help.  You can call your local city arborist or parks department to ask who they would use for such issues.  You can also call your local university extension agent.  

  When considering an arborist or horticulturalist it is best to consider credentials, results and or track records. Considering how fast an arborist can get to your tree or plant is a factor, but 99% of the time it is second to the above.  For example, some restaurants may not have the best servers but their food is amazing.  I will allow a bit of slow service for the best food.  The same could be said for a great doctor, assuming it wasn’t an emergency, and is no different for a knowledgeable arborist.  That said, most people that have observed a problem with their trees are in a hurry to fix it.  Any arborist that is adept at plant health care and diagnosis is likely very busy and could be hard to get on site quickly… so be patient.  It is worth noting that many tree issues, if caught early, take a while to do lasting damage to the tree.

I’m antsy… I’m just going to do something

  Many tree owners try to self diagnose their tree or plant.  Usually this isn’t a good idea unless you will be using very mild treatments which are unlikely to do much damage.  Often I get to a property to asses a tree that is stressed and the tree owner has dumped fertilizer all around the tree.  Fertilizers can be very helpful to long term plant growth and health but many fertilizers, when used on trees and plants which already are stressed or declining, can be lethal.  Fertilizers which are the least harmful are slow release products and are formulated to slowly release the nutrients.

If you feel you must try to fertilize, at least use a very slow release fertilizer with high quality ingredients. An analogy is fitting here; vitamins and minerals rarely cause harm to a body but prescription drugs can and do.  Fertilizers can act as vitamins and minerals however, nitrogen and others can create more stress.  Boron is a plant micro-nutrient often included in the ingredients list of many fertilizers. Boron, can ,when used in large quantities, cause death of plants and trees.  Many fertilizers also contain salt. Which if overused, can create a condition where the soil will pull the water and nutrients back out of the plant or tree.  High salt content in soils and salt spray is harmful to trees and plants and can cause burning of the roots, leaves and other parts. If vitamins a person took had high amounts of salt in them, it would likely be bad for those that have health issues such as high blood pressure.  Plants can get too much salt as well.  

What can I do right now

  The best course of action, if you are itching to treat your own tree or plant now, is to start with a treatment that can improve the environmental conditions around the tree or plant. This will allow the plant or tree to function more as it would in the forest.  Forest trees are accustomed to very oxygen rich soil with a lot of decaying organic matter in it.  In the forest there is an abundance of organic debris which breaks down into nutrients. This organic debris creates pore space in the soil resulting in adequate amounts of oxygen within the soil. This soil is one in which roots can easily seek out nutrients and water.  Tools which eliminate or alleviate soil compaction are possibly the most therapeutic, non-damaging methods at improving overall tree health care. Air excavation tools can be used to holistical1ly improve soils and help to promote an abundance of absorbing roots. The process involving such tool have little to no negative side-effects to trees. 

  A concerned tree owner can rent the tool mentioned above with an air compressor and do the work themselves. (click this link to see an air spade in action).  A tree owner could also use aeration spikes on their feet and walk around under the tree canopy.  This could help restore some oxygen to the root zone and alleviate the side effects of root zone compaction.  A tree owner could also drill small holes all around the canopy with a larger drill bit. Back fill the holes with mulch or root zone humus (RZH) and get very good results.

It’s the simple things that matter

Root zone aeration is simple and can help restore natural function, as well as getting the tree to fend for itself. Best of all it doesn’t include intervening with chemicals as a first step.  The side-effects of the treatments mentioned above, no matter the condition of the tree or soil, will be very good. There are no harmful side-effects to the tree from these methods. Chemicals used to treat diseases are usually used when it’s too late for good preventative habits. This is similar to the use of drugs used to treat or lessen the effects of disease in humans. Good preventative care will reduce the need for such drugs. Chemicals used to treat trees and plants should be used carefully as there are side-effects.

Taking samples and troubleshooting

  The next possible solution to a treatment would be to take some samples of the soil. (Click here for more information on soil samples). Take some leaf tissue samples and possibly pathology samples of tree parts if you suspect a disease. Check out these charts on troubleshooting nutrient deficiencies and identifying symptoms consistent with nutrient related problems. For hardwoods: (link to hardwoods here) and palms: (links to palms). 

Keep in mind that these charts don’t give you the soil PH and this is critical in nutrient delivery.  If you have high or low PH, you will have nutrient deficiency phenomena in the tree or plant tissue. This is despite the fact that you could actually have the nutrients that you think are lacking available.  Proper timing and application of fertilizers is important. (Watch video on how to apply fertilizers to palms).

Slow your role… fungicides and pesticides are dangerous in the wrong hands

  Use of chemicals to treat disease or insect infestation should be used sparingly and very carefully.  Many tree and plant owners just throw these products out irresponsibly. This often leads to more plant and tree health care problems.  Fungicides used to treat harmful fungi are non-selective and can harm fungi that are beneficial to trees and plants.  Make sure you actually have a fungal pathogen present in the soil before doing soil applications.  Most (approximately 98%) of insects are helpful and beneficial to plants and trees.  Pesticides are also non-selective and harmful to beneficial insects as well as destructive insects.  Using aerial spraying techniques or soil applications may kill the good bugs. 

Injections are applied right into vascular tissue of trees and are less likely to harm good fungus and good bugs.   Research which products do the least or no harm to the good insects. Find out which have the greatest affect on insects which you know are damaging your tree or plant before use. Tree owners can buy these products and use them. However, it is best to let a professional treat trees and plants with chemicals. These products come with many risks and the label must be followed to avoid damaging the tree or you.

Asian Longhorned Beetle

Asian Longhorned Beetle

The Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) has not been spotted in Florida, but it has been found in 5 states so far: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois and Ohio. Illinois and and New Jersey believe they have eradicated it through a close watch and from removing the trees that the beetle had infested.

The United States Department of Agriculture has put together a helpful page websites where you can learn about the ALB and how to inspect for it. The bad part about this pest is that once it has infected your trees there is no way to remove it. You have to remove your tree to get rid of it. You can visit the site to get more information:

The ALB was first discovered in 1996 and it is thought that it made it over in packing materials from Asia. This sucker likes hardwoods and so far has been found on:

  • Ash
  • Golden Raintree
  • Hackberry
  • Poplar
  • Mimosa
  • Moutain Ash
  • Horse-chestnut
  • Elm
  • Katsura
  • Maple
  • Willow
  • London Plantree
  • Birch

More than 80,000 tree have been lost so far, which is why at O’Neil’s Tree Service, even thought it has not been spotted in Florida, we suggest you keep an eye out for it, and if you find it report it. There are many resources as well as a way to report in sightings of this beetle at

You can also always give us a call at O’Neil’s to do an inspection of your tree for this or and all other reasons. Call us at 727-599-7548.

Tree service slide cleaning at play world

Slide Cleaning at Play World

We had a little fun the other day doing some unusual tree work. We were asked to help clean and dust the slide in Play World at the Highland Recreation Center in Largo Florida. You can find out more information about the center here:

It was a tougher job than we had expected because it was a bit different from another day at the Tree Service Office. We are familiar with getting around in trees, we save the slides to our kids nowadays, but with the climbing techniques and the understanding, we have of rope systems we were able to safely clean the exterior of the slide.

I guess we are now a Tree Service Slide Cleaning Service? Well, since it’s different from our day to day grind (not really a grind, we get to hang out in trees every day, isn’t that every boy’s dream growing up) we will do it again and now know how to do it better next time.

You will find some pictures below of our guys on the slides:

Tree Removal

At ONeils Tree Service we like to preserve trees anytime that it is possible, but sometimes Tree Removals are necessary because your trees are dead or dying, have become hazardous or need to be removed due to construction.Tree Removals are one of the most dangerous jobs in aboriculture, so our arborists and crew are highly trained. During a removal we protect the area surrounding the tree and ensure safety on the site of the tree removal at all times. When we remove trees we use up to date industry standard climbing and rigging techniques to safely and efficiently remove the tree. Often trees are very close to homes and structures or are dangerous to climb and lower safely to the ground. As a result, we prefer to use a crane to make the removal of any tree safer for you, your property, our crew and everyone else involved. Additionally, a crane can increase productivity which sometimes can mean savings for the customer.We use large equipment to minimize the impact to property and surrounding plant life during a tree removal. Some of the equipment that may be used are: cranes, grapple trucks, turf friendly loaders and bucket trucks. We have found that this keeps the impact of any removal, may it be a Grand Live Oak or a small Crepe Myrtle, as light and as safe as possible.

Sometimes, when a tree is in poor health, has poor structural integrity, is damaging property or is in a poor location, it may have to be removed. ONeils Tree Service, in addition to being experts in the art of proper trimming/pruning, is also very precise and efficient at removing any tree no matter how big or small. Tree removal is a whole different ball game when compared to pruning. Removals often have much bigger risks involved than your standard trimming job. Each removal is entirely different from any other. Each time you decide to remove a tree there is a different set of risks. Different risks can be: screened porches, decks, roofs, driveways, traffic, valuable landscaping, pools, pavers and much more. Before ONeils starts a removal, the crew has a meeting to discuss how the job will be done, the type of tree we are taking down and what hazards are involved with the job. This helps to ensure that everyone is aware of the hazards and helps us to work as a team to successfully complete our task. As a result of careful planning, we get the trees down with as little impact on the surroundings as possible. This sets us apart from other tree services and is just one of the many reasons why a customer would hire us to remove a tree.

When an ONeils estimator shows up to give you an estimate we will look at the safest most efficient way to perform the tree removal. Most trees have entirely different approaches to removing them. Some trees require a crane to safely remove the tree from the property without damage to your home, etc. More often than not when you contract ONeils Tree Service to remove a tree the homeowner is required to apply for and receive an approved permit for the removal of the tree. ONeils can and often does pull permits on the behalf of our customers to save them time, money and aggravation. After the permit has been approved, ONeils schedules the work to be done. When we arrive on site we are prepared to safely complete most tree removals in one work day.

When ONeils is done with each job we thoroughly clean-up the mess we have made. We strive to make your property look as if we were never there. If your not satisfied, we will come back and make you happy for no extra charge.

I  can undoubtedly say that the service provided by Apollo and his crew exceeded all expectations. My neighbor was so impressed that he hired O’Neil’s Tree Service to perform work on some of his properties.


Apollo O’Neil and his crew removed 5 decaying trees from my property. A large Elm was in a difficult place overhanging a pond. They did a great job and it was interesting to see the teamwork involved.


I had excellent experience with the performance of O’Neil’s Tree Service at my previous home.This job was completed very professionally. Apollo kept a prompt estimate appointment. He clearly explained what could and what should be done to maintain healthy trees that do not overgrow the area near the house. He completed a diagram to indicate where and what work would be performed. The crew came out, using the instructions on the estimate document, began working efficiently and effectively. They stacked with fire wood and clean the grounds with care. I had to leave before they finished and some of the Oak tree pruning did not meet my expectation. I called Apollo and received a most congenial response. Crew lead, Charles, came out superbly finished the job. Apollo, the crew and the office administrative people are all great to deal with and I highly recommend them.


Tree permitting information can be obtained by following the links below to the respective cities.

Tree removal Ozona Florida:

Is Ganoderma On Your Trees?

Is Ganoderma On Your Trees?

Ganoderma Tree Disease in Florida

The root pathogen, Ganoderma lucidum, generally enters a tree through wounds, tears, cuts or damaged roots. Most trees in Florida can be affected by this disease. The DNA of the disease is slightly different between hardwood trees and palm trees. This means that neither strain of Ganoderma is transferrable between the two types of plants. A young hardwood can be planted near the site of an old hardwood that had Ganoderma with very little risk of transferring the disease from the old tree to the new one. However, Ganoderma which kills palm trees is different, and newly planted palms near the site of a palm that had Ganoderma will contract the disease. Some studies suggest that the fungus infects a tree root system slowly and may take as many as 10-20 years to kill the tree. Other studies have concluded that Ganoderma is a naturally occurring element of many mature trees. New information has found that Ganoderma may be quite a bit more aggressive in killing trees than originally thought. This information makes this disease quite dangerous considering that Ganoderma attacks the structural root system.

Trees have two primary root systems. The fibrous root system uptakes the water and nutrients. The structural root system of a tree holds the tree into the ground preventing it from tipping over. Once Ganoderma has begun to degrade the structural roots of the tree it quickly becomes unstable. This makes the tree very susceptible to complete tree failure.

One major issue with Ganoderma is many trees with this disease often appear to be healthy to the untrained eye. Many trees have a decent looking canopy, dieback with deadwood in the canopy and no fungal conks on the trunk. Some trees have many fungal conks on the trunk or other tree parts, and no signs of dieback in the canopy. If a tree is showing any signs of Ganoderma, further investigation should be done to determine the extent of the damage to the structural roots and heartwood of the tree.

Unfortunately, Ganoderma is incurable. Once this fungus has begun to colonize the tree’s systems there is no treatment or cure for the disease. The best preventative measure for ensuring this fungus to set it is to avoid root injury. This isn’t all that likely in an urban forest, but fortunately, after some sleuthing, many trees with Ganoderma don’t need immediate removal.

If you think your tree has Ganoderma, Give O’Neil’s a Call Today and we will come to inspect your tree for Free. Call – (727) 599-7548